February is hard. People generally come off the holidays feeling eager to make positive change and try new things. The new calendar year (or decade!) adds further motivation–not to mention feeling a bit sluggish from all the celebrating. People are quick to swear off alcohol, carbs, sugar, and caffeine, while starting a gym membership, hiring a trainer, cleansing on the Whole 30, and signing up for a vegan cooking class. They are on a roll!
Then February hits…and the “newness” of our resolutions begins to wain–the desire for a glass of wine at the end of the day, or a bowl of pasta at your favorite restaurant on a Saturday night, or skipping that 6:00am Boot Camp class before work are hard to resist. The weather is miserable, you feel cooped up indoors, half your family is battling a cold, and perhaps you feel a general “malaise”, what I refer to as the Mid-Winter Blues. And I understand. Don’t throw in the towel–but let’s reassess.
My favorite trick is what I call: Three Is the Charm. This strategy will help breathe some energy back into your routine. Here is how it works: Instead of setting your alarm 5 days a week to hit the gym, pick 3 days and tell yourself you will walk as many steps as possible on the other days. (Keep track on your phone. There are roughly 2,000 steps in a mile, aim for 10,000 steps). Just allow yourself a couple mornings to sleep that extra hour or two–your body needs it to keep your immune system strong and battle viruses.
Pick 3 nights a week with no alcohol–a glass of wine or a beer after work, or a couple drinks on a Friday night with friends will not derail your health regimen. (Remember to stay within the guidelines of 5-7 drinks weekly for women and 10-14 for men). And from a health standpoint, I would much prefer you enjoy a glass of Merlot while cooking dinner than a bag of chips or Oreos for dessert.
Commit to preparing a home cooked dinner 3 nights a week. Even though you “swear” you have found the healthiest takeout restaurants in your area, and many post their nutritional information on the menus, from a nutrition standpoint, NOTHING beats a home cooked meal. You control all the ingredients, portions, and it also allows you to have leftovers for lunch or dinner later in the week. Simple dishes like a vegetarian bean stew, turkey chili, or Pasta Fajioli soup are perfect one pot healthy dinners to feed a crowd.
Finally, pick 3 nights a week to go to bed an hour early. No more online shopping, returning emails at midnight, and binging on Netflix. Just like animals (think hibernating bears) our bodies crave more rest in the winter, with the colder temperatures and longer nights, so just give it what it wants.
By easing up on your routine, you can still enjoy the health benefits of your goals for 2020 without feeling bored, guilty or resentful. As long as you are resting, moving, and eating clean most of the time you can still feel proud of your accomplishments. Remember–we are playing the “long game”, and life is not always perfect!